A case is currently being considered by the Florida Supreme Court that has the potential to change the gaming landscape of the state, specifically for rural Gadsden County, Gretna Racing and the Poarch Creek Indians of Atmore.
Local officials hope that they are able to influence Florida’s high court regarding slot machines at Gretna Racing in keeping with referendums that were approved by voters in Lee, Brevard, Palm Beach, Hamilton and Washington counties allowing the gambling expansion. On December 18 the city of Gretna’s request to file a friend-of-the-court brief to aid in allowing slot machines at the pari-mutuel facility owned by the Poarch Creek Indians of Atmore was approved by the Supreme Court. That was followed by a similar request last Monday by Gadsden County, backing a 2012 slots referendum there, according to NorthEscambia.com.
The motion that was filed on December 18 detailed the benefits to the economy that allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels would provide. The city’s motion said part of a “master plan” envisions the expansion to include at least one convention hotel, accompanied by restaurants and shops. That plan though is dependent upon the issuance of the slots permit.
The decision as to whether or not Gretna Racing should be permitted to have slot machines sans permission from the Legislature was agreed upon by the Supreme Court on December 1. The case was taken to the Supreme Court by the racetrack after an October 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Governor Rick Scott’s administration and Attorney General Pam Bondi in ruling that approval from the Legislature was needed for slots. The ruling in October reversed an earlier appeals court ruling favoring Gretna Racing.
The case issues revolve around interpretations of a 2009 a law legalizing slot machines for pari-mutuels. So, while the epicenter of the case is west of Tallahassee in Gadsden County, which had a population of approximately 46,000 residents in 2014, its outcome could be a determining factor in whether slots will be permitted in the counties of Washington, Lee, Brevard, Hamilton and Palm Beach. Referendums to allow slot machines were approved by voters in each of those counties. Gadsden County’s motion to intervene on December 21 argued it was within its rights to authorize a referendum that would permit slots.
No date has been set by the Supreme Court to hear arguments in the case. The brief filed last Monday by attorneys for Gretna Racing outlines their positions on the legal issues. A mid-January reply is expected by the state. Meanwhile, No Casinos, Inc. is already lining up with the state and has been given the nod to file a brief with the court.